When The Devil Wears Prada came out, I asked a certain person in the fashion world how it had gone down at US Vogue. 'Hamish Bowles told me he'd been to see it,' she told me, 'and he said of the Stanley Tucci character, why are they laughing? This is my life.'
The Times today has a long interview with Hamish Bowles, Vogue's 'European editor at large'
“He’s pure genius,” observes the photographer Mario Testino, who credits Bowles with transforming him from a Peruvian “beach bum” during their bonding at Harpers & Queen in the mid-Eighties. “He has the makings of a Diana Vreeland; he has the sharpest eye there is.” Unlike Vreeland, though, Bowles doesn’t over-compensate for a lack of self-assurance by being a grand diva. While he embraces the style of Cecil Beaton, Stephen Tennant and the other “Bright Young Things”, he is no snob and finds little need to appear posher than he is. He observes his various orbits – whether it be fashion or society – in an unusually inclusive way. He is often the centre of attention – not because he desires to be, but because he is genuinely the epicentre of fashion, decor and society in New York, London, Paris or, for that matter, Jaipur and Tangier. Flitting around town in lavender Gucci patent-leather loafers, Bowles – wearing his neo-Edwardian suits with a mean waist – appears frail as a sparrow, but he has a tough interior (you have to be steely to survive at Vogue).
You can hardly see him – let alone find room to sit – in his Vogue office in New York. It is a veritable rainforest of Country Life and foreign decor magazines, endless press releases, scouting pictures, and years of notebooks filled with lightning sketches of what he’s viewed on fashion runways. There are pyramids of fashion monographs, a library of books on the floor, and a white Preen mother-of-pearl sequin dress in the midst of it all. What little decor there is consists of a blown-up reproduction of a 1934 Cecil Beaton watercolour of Elsie de Wolfe and a paper collage portrait of himself swinging his quilted Chanel bag, a goodbye present from his days at Harpers & Queen. “I find pristine desks to be downright antiseptic and disquieting,” harrumphs Bowles, who admits that Wintour “would be pretty alarmed” at the sight of his office. “You tend to go to her. Despite what people may think, the door is always open.” Besides, adds Wintour, “I’m not sure there’s room in there for me.”